Baby steps

>> Tuesday, 9 March 2010

If you've been following our adventures in Moscow, you may have picked up on the fact that I'm trying to learn enough Russian to get by. Quite what 'getting by' actually means is up for debate, of course; does it mean being able to say 'good morning' to the lady at the supermarket check-out? To walk into the farmer's market and request 3 teaspoonful's of mace and a couple of nutmegs? To be able to order 500 Rubles-worth of petrol at the gas station, perhaps? Or to tell the babushka elbowing you from behind to back off and that personal space might not be important to her but it is to you?

Well, I'm beginning to wonder if I'll even get off the starting blocks on anything except the good mornings and the good afternoons. This is me trying to recap some of my homework before my next Russian lesson tomorrow. Admittedly, I was pushing my luck; the Boys and I had just finished dinner so they were still at the table with me as I was leafing through my index cards showing useful words...

Me: "Monday: Понедельник. Tuesday: Вторник."

Boy #2: "Mama! Mama! Can you wipe my thumb?"

Me: "Ummm - yes. Come here. What is it - oh, don't tell me. Now, Tuesday: Вторник..."

Boy #1: "How do you spell my name in Russian, mama? How?"

Me: "Well, it doesn't look the same but it sounds it..." (I translate it. Much hilarity follows at the ridiculous Cyrillic alphabet, most of which I'm inclined to agree with - I mean 33 letters? Far too many of which sound different depending on whether they are preceded by a vowel, a consonent or are stressed? I'll give them 'stressed' for Pete' sake...)

Me: "OK. Tuesday: Вторник. Wednesday: Среда. Thursday: Четверг..."

Boy #2: Mama! Mama! (Climbs up behind me on my chair, puts his hands over my eyes, ruffles my hair, generally does an impression of a limpet). What am I?

Me: "I don't know, Boy #2. Nothing I can say out loud. Can you just get down for a moment so I can concentrate on this please?" (I unceremoniously dump him off the chair and try to continue. My index cards get knocked on the floor in the ensuing scuffle. I pick them up and find I am now looking at the number section rather than days of the week. Oh well... Numbers it is, then...)

Me: "Eighteen: восемнадцат. Nineteen: девятнадцать. Twenty: двадцать."

Boy #1: "Mama, what did this fish pie cost in Rubles?"

Me: "Oh, well, the fish cost... "

Boy #2: "I need the LOO! I need it now! Mama, can you come and wipe my bottom? Can you? Can you turn the light on?" (He waddles off towards the bathroom, trousers and pants already round his ankles in readiness, and trips over a power ranger abandoned in the hall)

Boy #1: "How much did you say, Mama?"

Me: "I can't remember. I can't remember anything at all, actually. (Heavy sigh). Sod it. Who'ld like some chocolate ice-cream?"

And just in case you're wondering, 'chocolate ice-cream' is 'Шоколадное мороженое' in Russian. Thank god for Google translate; at least I'll be able to make myself understood about the important stuff...


Brit in Bosnia / Fraught Mummy 9 March 2010 at 19:06  

Oh thank heaven and earth and everything inbetween that Bosnian has a cyrillic AND latin alphabet. It is bad enough trying to work it out when I can read the words! Wishing you luck... a LOT of luck!

Mwa 9 March 2010 at 19:39  

I think you're very brave. And I'm so glad that the internet is showing me that quite a few British expats do try to learn the language!

Expat mum 9 March 2010 at 19:43  

I need to go and lie down!

Hot Cross Mum 9 March 2010 at 20:07  

What an adventure you're all on. I can't deal with that amount of distraction in my kitchen in Ireland, never mind in Russia. Keep plenty of ice cream in the fridge...!

Tara@Sticky Fingers 9 March 2010 at 20:48  

wow. Very very impressive. I think I would weep with the thought of having to learn a new language at my (cough) age, but Russian? All kudos to you my dear, all kudos!

The Green Stone Woman 9 March 2010 at 21:00  

I couldn't handle it PM, can't you write it down in roman letters phonetically? That's what I would do, Although then you wouldn't be able to read any signs, would you?

Paradise Lost In Translation 9 March 2010 at 21:25  

I do empathise. Learnign ALbanian has been one of the most difficult things I have done in recent yrs. Trouble is after a yr I can get by in shops, cafes & in v limited spheres of vocab. So I have now lost my motivation to press on to converse in anything passing for fluent. My teacher is always scolding me. you are bright & learn quickly but you do not take it seriously. what she means is I don't prioritise my HW & I don't put in extra hours learning declensiosn of Albanian verbs etc.

nappy valley girl 10 March 2010 at 00:08  

I think the fact that you have managed to include Russian letters in your blog post is just bloody impressive....!

Iota 10 March 2010 at 04:18  

I love the way kids do that - take their trousers and pants down before reaching the bathroom.

What is 'bathroom' in Russian, I wonder. That could be a useful one to know.

Calif Lorna 10 March 2010 at 04:43  

That's seriously impressive - I'd have given up after the first lesson.

Can't you just speak English in a very loud voice like all other British tourists?!

sharon 10 March 2010 at 10:02  

Can't you pretend to be deaf and just learn Russian sign language?

Potty Mummy 10 March 2010 at 14:17  

Thanks Brit - may I say that I absolutely need all the luck I can get?

Mwa, some of us do, I promise! Although the fact that so few of the locals speak English is something of an incentive, I have to admit!

EPM - you should try sitting through a lesson...

HCM - that goes without saying, really!

Tara, I have to admit that if I didn't have to, I wouldn't. It's so hard!

Irene, you hit the nail on the head (because yes, the thought HAD occurred to me!)

Paradise, yes, that sounds very like me! A friend here has stopped trying to learn because, as she put it, you can learn Russian, or have a life...

NVG, would love to take credit for that but must admit that Google Translate and cutting and pasting are very helpful on occasion!

Actually Iota but phonetically it sounds the same. In writing however, you might not realise that: туалет

Lorna, I tried that. Most days. Sadly it didn't get me very far...

Sharon - I think you may have something there...

Jo Beaufoix 10 March 2010 at 21:21  

Oh my goodness I need icecream too just thinking about it. That is just a nightmare. Big hugs and you will get there. And it's good you have your priorities right lovely, as in knowing the words for said ice cream. x

Lisa @ Boondock Ramblings 11 March 2010 at 02:17  

How do you say, "I can't speak Russian..." in Russian? That could help you! :-) Heee....

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